News highlights for February 25, 2011

CisionPoint news monitoring provides this small sampling of the university's daily news coverage. Click headline to read full text via Cision or link directly to the online article where available. For questions or comments about this service, or to add or delete a name from the mailing list, please contact Gerry Everding.

Associated Press
Census: St. Louis population down 8 percent

St. Louis is losing residents, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday, and the population decline goes deeper than being another blow to the proud city’s image. Steven S. Smith, a public policy professor at Washington University in St. Louis, agrees that something needs to change. “The challenges are really quite substantial,” Smith said. “How do you attract business? How do you maintain neighborhoods? How do you prevent continuing decay and abandonment which, when it gets to a certain point, leads to a downward spiral?”
 Link to Article See also National Public Radio, Forbes,, Yahoo News, Bloomberg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Wall Street Journal | Health Blog

Can living with dogs or cats prevent asthma in kids?

Leonard Bacharier, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine and a co-author of a 2003 commentary on pets and childhood asthma published in Pediatrics, says the jury is still out on whether early life exposure to furry domesticated pets can help fend off asthma — studies have come down on either side of the question. Not all varieties of dirt and grime — from cat dander to cockroaches to dust mites — are helpful, he says. Link to Article


Navigational “magic” of sea turtles explained

In a Current Biology study published Feb. 24, Washington University neurobiologists Le-Qing Wu and David Dickman follow up on earlier observations of magnetically sensitive compounds in birds’ vestibular lagena, an inner-ear structure. Wu and Dickman held 23 homing pigeons in total darkness for 72 hours within a rotating magnetic field. Aftewards they killed the birds and searched their brains for activation in regions linked to orientation, spatial memory and navigation. The results may encode a “geomagnetic vector” that links motion, direction and gravity. 
Link to Article

A founding father’s books discovered in Missouri library

Researchers announced Monday that 74 volumes in the rare books collection at the Washington University in St. Louis library originally belonged to none other than Thomas Jefferson, our country’s third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Scholars at Monticello, Jefferson’s sprawling Virginia plantation, were thrilled. In the 1800s, Jefferson’s extensive library was legendary. Link to Article

The New Yorker | The Book Bench

Ask an Academic: Nuns gone wild

In 1986, Craig A. Monson—now a professor of music at Washington University in St. Louis—took a few days off from his research in Italy, and visited a little-known museum in Florence. There he found a Renaissance music manuscript that he traced to a Bolognese convent — surprising, given the raunchy lyrics of its secular selections. As Monson continued his research, he discovered much about nuns that had little to do with piety. Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy is a collection of the more outrageous stories, perpetrated mostly by well-born women with little inclination toward religious life. Recently, Monson took the time to answer questions from the Book Bench; an edited version of the conversation appears below. Link to Article

New Scientist TV

Punk rock skeleton demos mind control system

Mind control devices are quite the rage these days, with systems designed to control everything from iPad apps, to prosthetic limbs, to cars. This system, developed by Daniel Moran of Washington University in St. Louis uses a grid of disc-shaped electrodes, inserted between the brain and the skull, to read electrical activity in the brain. It’s more precise than electrodes placed outside of the skull, and less invasive than probes inserted into the brain itself. Link to Article

Business Insider

Meet the paid-media guy to New York’s establishment power players

Josh Isay’s clients dominate the New York news. He has worked for Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo, Christine Quinn, Bruce Ratner, Scott Stringer, Joe Lieberman, Charlie Crist, Caroline Kennedy, the New York Stock Exchange and Benjamin Netanyahu. Before moving in such powerful circles, he was a mediocre student who squeaked his way into Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in political science. After graduation, he took a job in then New York Attorney General Robert Abrams’ press office. Link to Article

BIOtech Now

Balancing regulation and research

On Feb. 17, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis hosted a panel discussion about the opportunities and challenges of genetically modified crops and the role U.S. farmers and the federal government should play in ensuring their viability and safety. James W. Davis, professor emeritus, vice chancellor for students and coordinator – special projects for Washington University in St. Louis, moderated the discussion. Link to Article

Advance for Physical Therapists and PT Assistants

Smooth moves

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the benefits of exercise in improving walking, strength, balance, flexibility and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s Disease. Resistance training can be an important component of the overall treatment plan for a person with Parkinson’s, according to a study presented by Gammon Earhart, PT, PhD, of Washington University of St. Louis, and colleagues at a Feb. 11 physical therapy association meeting in New Orleans. Link to Article

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Conference explores how intelligence computes

Average IQ might have gone up a few points in Santa Fe this week thanks to a temporary profusion of gray matter at an international gathering of neuroscientists. One new cycle of research discussed by David C. Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis is the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a $30 million, five-year research partnership with the University of Minnesota, University of Oxford and six other institutions that will use advanced magnetic resonance imaging technology for detecting brain function and connectivity. Link to Article


WUSTL makes Princeton Review’s list of “best value” colleges

Host offers a “shout” out to Washington University for being one of three area universities to make the Princeton Review’s list of the nation’s “best value” colleges. Link to Broadcast

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Divergence sale spurs hope for more deals

As St. Louis assembled money, facilities and talent to build a life-sciences industry, backers often said we lacked just one key ingredient: success stories. We got a success story this week with the sale of Divergence to Monsanto. Divergence was founded in 1999 by James McCarter, a genetics scientist at Washington University. The hope is that the buzz surrounding the agricultural-technology firm will inspire other entrepreneurs to start companies here. Link to Article

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Unemployed seek courtesy of response

Like thousands of recent college graduates who preceded her, Laelia Watt learned that a fickle job market tends to ignore the attributes young people believe will provide a foothold toward a long and fulfilling career. With the exception of Washington University — which receives accolades from Watt and other job-seekers for apprising applicants of their hiring status — her efforts elicited not a single response from would-be employers. Link to Article

St. Louis Public Radio

Congressman Russ Carnahan discusses issues in advance of WUSTL forum

A discussion with Congressman Russ Carnahan about promoting civility, his role as a member of the Center Aisle Caucus and other current issues. Carnahan, who represents Missouri’s Third District, joined other politicians later in the afternoon for a public forum on civility in politics hosted by Washington University’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. Link to Article See also civility forum coverage in the St. Louis Beacon, Student Life, Belleville News Democrat

Related news release

Saint Louis Beacon

In praise of human resources

Robert Duffy’s column suggests that one of the city’s greatest “human resources” is its people, including his longtime friend, Mary Taussig Hall. Her late husband, Thomas Steel Hall, himself an exceptional and brilliant human resource, had a distinguished professorial career in the sciences at Washington University from 1949 to 1971, and also served as dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, from 1949 to 1961. Link to Article

News in Higher Education

New York Times

Harvard and Princeton restore early admission

Harvard and Princeton each announced Thursday that they would revive their early-admission programs. Both universities eliminated them four years ago, saying they wanted to even the playing field between wealthy applicants and those needing financial aid, but have since decided that the decision was causing them to miss out on students. Link to Article

Wall Street Journal

Publishers expand e-textbook offerings for classroom

Schools are beginning to incorporate tablet computers like the iPad into the classroom, leading publishers to expand their e-textbook offerings. McGraw-Hill Co. signed an agreement with interactive textbook start-up Inkling to make more of its titles available through Inkling’s iPad app, and Pearson PLC said it is also in advanced discussions with Inkling. Link to Article

Newport Daily News

University accidentally sent 2,000 acceptance e-mails

Christopher Newport University e-mailed acceptance letters to 2,000 students Wednesday afternoon with the subject line “Welcome to CNU!” It was followed about four hours later by an e-mail saying the first one was sent by mistake and apologizing for any confusion. The error occurred when an employee sent the welcome e-mail to more students from the database than intended. Link to Article

For additional higher education news (subscription may be required):
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Inside Higher Ed
University Business

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